Omicron is here. Panic or Carry on?
Last week a new variant of Covid was identified by South African scientists and subsequently detected in many locations around the world. How should societies respond? Panic and lockdown or carry on the path we were on before the variant emerged?
When Covid first emerged in early 2020 we knew nothing about it; how dangerous it would be how fast it would spread. At the time Governments around the world reacted varyingly between caution and panic to address the threat. Arguably, all those varying responses might have been valid at the time given how little we knew about the virus.
But now we know so much more about covid. We have an arsenal of vaccines, treatments, data, medical capacity, protections, experience, legislation, IT platforms and learned behaviours in how to deal with it. We know more about covid than any other virus, ever, on the planet. While omicron may turn out to be more transmissible, there is no evidence that it is more dangerous.
In previous pandemics such as the 1968 H3N2 virus, 1957 H2N2 (Hong Kong) flu or the 1918 H1N1 (Spanish) flu we had much less knowledge. The viruses raged through societies around the world with a huge loss of life until herd immunity was established. Covid ranks 6th in terms of lives lost, coming in below HIV/AIDS and the 1918 flu in modern times. Pandemics were seen as an act of God that ran their course and were ultimately forgotten. The detailed knowledge we have now has helped us save tens of millions of lives but has also made societies more fearful as we articulate the threat and sometimes even engage in panicky conspiracy theories.
In times of crisis, we reasonably expect our leaders and Governments to lead. None of us want sugar-coated versions of reality but we also expect our leaders to step up, address problems and communicate to citizens and consumers clearly and honestly. The knee jerk reactions we have seen around the world this week by Governments returning to lockdown and restricting travel hark back to the attempts to reach zero-covid we saw earlier in the year.
Human societies will always face crises: financial crises, wars, pandemics and now climate change. Crises that impact our lives will sadly never end. All that we can do as citizens and consumers is choose leaders who respond competently to them.
What do you think? Are Governments panicking or just being appropriately cautious? Are our leaders calmly solving the pandemic problems or lacking courage and being fearful in their actions? Leave your comments below.